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20TH CENTURY FOX

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast:
Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, Thelma Ritter
Writing Credits:
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Tagline:
It's all about women---and their men!
MPAA:
Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor-George Sanders; Best Screenplay; Best Costume Design; Best Sound.
Nominated for Best Actress-Bette Davis; Best Actress-Anne Baxter; Best Supporting Actress-Celeste Holm; Best Supporting Actress-Thelma Ritter; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing; Best Score-Alfred Newman.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Standard 1.33:1
Audio:
English Digital Stereo
English Digital Mono
French Digital Mono
Spanish Digital Mono
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 1/14/2003

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actor Celeste Holm, Director’s Son Christopher Mankiewicz, and Biographer Kenneth Geist
• Audio Commentary with Author Sam Staggs
• AMC Backstory Episode
• Original Interviews with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter
• Four Movietone Newsreels
• Theatrical Trailer
• Restoration Comparison


PURCHASE
DVD

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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


All About Eve: Fox Studio Classics Edition (1950)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 13, 2003)

Embarrassing admission: when I first watched 1950’s All About Eve a few years ago, the storyline quickly caught me off guard. I thought it would be more of a psychological thriller instead of the character-driven drama it is. Because I'm a moron, I'd confused All About Eve with Three Faces of Eve and Bette Davis' What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? My pea brain melded those two to come up with All About Eve. It didn't take me long to realize my mistake, but I felt pretty stupid nonetheless.

It also didn't take me too long to see where All About Eve was going with its plot. Despite the film's title, it's not directly about Eve (Anne Baxter); although she plays a major role in the film, the plot seems more concerned with the effect Eve's presence plays on the other characters, most notably successful stage actress Margo Channing (Davis). After the movie starts with an awards banquet at which she receives the most prestigious prize, we learn that Eve has become a huge star, and the film plays in flashback to lead us up to - and past - the moment of her victory. We see Eve ingratiate herself into the lives of Margo and her friends. We watch as Eve's machinations slowly affect tension and dissension among the tightly knit group, all as she positions herself to climb the ladder.

In a way, Eve actually offers something of a thriller, as it seems somewhat similar to films like Single White Female and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle; those movies depicted women who infiltrate the lives of others and seem perfect and wonderfully supportive at first but inevitably cause great harm due to their own goals. Eve sticks to more subtle means - there are no murders or bloodshed here - and the psychological damage inflicted by Eve's cunning doesn't look frightfully severe, but much of the fun of the film stems from being ahead of its characters and watching as Eve inevitably cons her way through life.

I hope these plot points don't sound like spoilers, but I think since the movie essentially begins with its ending, they won't reveal information you shouldn't already figure on your own. Within five minutes of the film's start, we know that Eve is a hugely successful actress, so it isn't a surprise to see her work through the ranks. How she gets there also seems inevitable, which can make the film somewhat frustrating; I was so far ahead of the characters that they appeared terribly dense at times.

Still, the movie works because it's well executed and acted. Because my knowledge of older films remains somewhat limited, I lack much experience with Davis' catalog of work; in fact, I don’t think I've seen any of her movies other than 1939's Dark Victory. Her work in that picture impressed me tremendously, and while her work in Eve doesn't quite equal the manic performance she offered in Victory, Davis still makes the most of her role as Margo. I must admit I was startled to see how old she looked; only eleven years passed between Victory and Eve, but Davis looks to have aged 25 years in that span. She's supposed to be 40, and was actually 42 at the time, but she appears closer to 50, and a worn-out 50 at that.

Nonetheless, she conjures some of that delicious bitch goddess attitude that has made her a favorite of gay men worldwide. The way she joyfully snarls, "Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a bumpy night!" has made that the most famous bit from Eve, but I actually preferred one minor line early in the picture; when Margo's friend Karen (Celeste Holm) brings the allegedly-starstruck Eve backstage after a show, Margo instructs her assistant Birdie (Thelma Ritter) to give the interloper "the heave-ho!" I don't know what it was, but something about the way she spits out that modest line really worked for me; that's the sign of a strong performance, I suppose, when even the inessential becomes delightful.

At first, it may seem odd that Eve focuses mainly on Margo, but it makes sense within the conventions of the genre. Eve needs to remain mysterious and aloof for most of the film, and that can't happen if she's the main character. Also, the concentration on Margo gives the audience a better entrance into the movie, as we can more easily relate to what happens.

Does All About Eve deserve its status as a classic? Yeah, I guess so. While I enjoyed the movie, I can't say that it completely bowled me over and stunned me. Much of it seems dated - when Margo concludes that she can only be a "complete" woman if she has a man, I gagged - but the picture moves at a sprightly enough pace, and the acting seems pretty strong. Baxter seems a bit bland, but that seems appropriate for her character, someone who needs to be something of a nothing for much of the story. Eve is something of a cipher, and Baxter pulls off her growth and change nicely.

I especially liked George Sanders' drolly-nasty turn as showbiz writer Addison DeWitt. He completely upstages the other men in the cast; as the respective mates of Margo and Karen, both Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe appear almost completely unmemorable. To be frank, I continually forgot which was which. They looked so much alike and both seemed so bland that they made little impression on me, especially when confronted with the quiet menace inherent in every word from Sanders. Also keep an eye out for a small role from a very young Marilyn Monroe, who portrays - surprise! - a ditzy aspiring actress. Eve wasn't Monroe's first acting job, but it clearly was the first in which she worked that made a name for itself.

And a fairly deserved name at that. As I already mentioned, I didn't think All About Eve was an amazingly good film, but it seemed very strong nonetheless. It dragged at times, and it probably could have lost 20 minutes or so of its 138-minute running time, but I enjoyed it anyway. Buoyed by some solid performances and crisp writing, All About Eve makes for an interesting and entertaining experience.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

All About Eve appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the original DVD offered a fairly crummy picture, the new one seemed substantially more attractive.

Sharpness varied but usually looked fine. Some shots appeared moderately soft, a factor that seemed somewhat affected by the hazy “glamour focus” afforded the actresses. A few other scenes came across as a bit fuzzy as well, but the movie generally came across as accurate and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement.

Whereas the original Eve presented scads of print flaws, the new release seemed surprisingly clean. The image suffered from somewhat elevated levels of grain at times, but otherwise, I noticed only minor issues. The film showed a few specks here and there plus the occasionally spot, mark or streak, but little else intruded on this smooth presentation.

Black levels generally seemed pretty strong, with some nicely defined dark tones throughout much of the film. Contrast appeared solid, with nicely silvery tones throughout the flick. Shadow detail also came across as distinct, with low-light sequences that were appropriately thick but not overly dense. The image of All About Eve rarely showed its age, as the picture looked quite positive.

Comparisons between the picture quality of the original disc and this one reveal radical differences. The new release improved upon the old disc in virtually every way. The prior package demonstrated a fairly miserable image, whereas this one seemed consistently positive.

While the old disc included only the film’s original monaural audio, the new one provided a Dolby Stereo track as well. Many older Fox flicks offer these rejiggerings, and most of them stink. While the stereo track for Eve seemed pointless, it didn’t suffer from all the flaws I discerned in some of the others.

The stereo imaging seemed like nothing more than glorified monaural for the most part. The vast majority of the audio remained anchored in the center. Some light spread moved to the sides and rears; for example, the applause at the end of one of Margo’s shows blended to the various speakers. Otherwise, the audio seemed highly concentrated in the middle. At least the material appeared better localized in that way; some of the other remixed flicks – such as Gentleman’s Agreement - displayed very loose placement that made them distractingly unfocused.

Agreement also suffered from a terrible sense of reverb, and a little of that appeared during the stereo track for Eve. However, the track mostly remained acceptably natural, and the echo didn’t interfere with the mix too badly. For the most part, speech sounded reasonably natural and distinct. The lines showed a little edge at times, and the reverb made the material a little tinnier than I’d like, but dialogue still appeared fine. Effects and music also came across as thin and without much range, but they were fairly clear and well defined for their age. Some light hum and background noise cropped up at times, but these remained very modest.

Although the movie’s stereo track seemed unobjectionable, it also was pointless, and I preferred the original monaural mix. Really, the two came across as very similar, though the mono version lacked the light reverb of the stereo one. Of course, it also failed to demonstrate the modest side and surround spread that occasionally appeared in the multi-channel edition.

In general, the mono track sounded moderately more natural than the stereo one. Dialogue came across as relatively warm and crisp. Some edge still appeared, but the reverb of the stereo mix exacerbated that issue, whereas the mono one diminished the concern somewhat. Music and effects also benefited from the minor increase in depth and clarity found without the extra echo. Both tracks featured similar levels of light background noise. While I gave the stereo mix a “B-“, the mono one earned a slightly higher “B”.

Whichever audio track you choose, you’ll find a substantial improvement over the generally rough and messy sound found on the original DVD. That disc showed greater distortion and also more evident source flaws. The improvements in audio seemed less startling, but they existed nonetheless and they made the new DVD much more satisfying.

This new “Studio Classics” release of All About Eve greatly expands that skimpy supplements found on the old release. The new one includes two audio commentaries, the first of which offers remarks from actor Celeste Holm, director’s son Christopher Mankiewicz, and Joe Mankiewicz biographer Ken Geist. All three were recorded separately for this edited, non-screen-specific track. Rather than focus on the movie itself, the commentary probably should be retitled “All About Joe”, as it concentrates largely on the flick’s writer/director.

We hear little from Holm, who occasionally tosses in a tidbit about the flick. None of these seem terribly memorable, though, and she gets lost in between the statements from the two men. Mankiewicz dishes the most dirt about the director, as he gives us a view of life with his father. He occasionally makes some positive comments, but his memories largely appear to be negative, especially in regard to the interactions between his parents. Geist focuses more on Joe Mankiewicz’s career, with a particular emphasis on the director’s feelings of inferiority in regard to his brother Herman. While this track doesn’t provide much of a look at the movie itself, it nonetheless offers an interesting examination of the director and it seems like an intriguing piece.

At the start of the first track, Geist related that he didn’t think much of the book All About “All About Eve”. Interestingly, the second commentary comes from that text’s writer, author Sam Staggs. In his piece, Geist really never related what bugged him so much about Staggs’ book, so I guess I need to take the latter’s remarks here at face value.

Whatever problems Geist had with the book, Staggs offers a pretty interesting commentary – when he speaks, that is. Though the piece starts well, Staggs fades badly after a while, and much of the movie’s second half passes without information. Nonetheless, Staggs manages to add some good facts about the production, as he details facts about the participants as well as notes about sets and locations and anecdotes from the set. The commentary includes far too many empty spots to truly succeed, but Staggs provides enough useful bits to make his track reasonably interesting.

Next we find an episode of AMC Backstory that covers All About Eve. In this 24-minute and 24-second program, we find a mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews with actors Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and Celeste Holm, Joseph Mankiewicz, director’s son Tom Mankiewicz, film historian Rudy Behlmer, and Bette Davis biographer Roy Moseley. The bits from Davis, Baxter and Joe Mankiewicz come from 1983 sources, while the others are more contemporary.

The program desperately wants to dish some dirt about the film, but it comes up short in that regard. We learn that Holm and Davis didn’t care for each other, and we hear of an extra-marital affair between Davis and co-star Gary Merrill, but otherwise, we don’t find much excitement in this drowsy documentary. It tries too hard to find scandal to act as a proper “making of” piece, so it doesn’t really accomplish much. “Backstory” includes some rudimentary information about the movie, but it seems incomplete and lackluster.

Some archival films appear as well. These include a 74-second Bette Davis Promotion and an 80-second Anne Baxter Promotion. Parts of the Davis piece appear in the trailer we’ll soon see. Both clips seem puffy and don’t offer much of interest other than for archival reasons.

Movietone News breaks down into five smaller pieces. “1951: Academy Awards Honor Best Film Achievements” runs 150 seconds and covers some of that year’s ceremony, while “1951: Hollywood Attends Gala Premiere of All About Eve” takes 115 seconds to document that event. “Holiday Magazine Awards” goes two minutes, 48 seconds, and shows parts of that drab presentation. The 116-second glimpse of the “Look Magazine Awards” also comes across as fairly dull, though at least this one features Bob Hope along with Joe Mankiewicz and Bette Davis. None of these clips seem very interesting, but they provide some nice historical artifacts nonetheless.

Finally, the “Movietone News” area includes the theatrical trailer for All About Eve. For this ad, we see an “interview” with Bette Davis on the movie’s set and then watch some film clips. As was the case with the promo on the original Eve DVD, this one comes from a post-Academy Awards issue of the film, as it mentions the flick’s many prizes.

In addition to this ad, we find clips for fellow Studio Classics releases Gentleman’s Agreement and How Green Was My Valley. Both offer post-Oscar reissue trailers similar to that of Eve. Finally, a Restoration Demonstration provides text that covers the work done for this DVD and then shows splitscreen images of a mix of different versions of the film.

More than 50 years after its initial release, All About Eve continues to offer a witty and incisive portrait of showbiz and its inhabitants. Some parts of the movie don’t age well, but most of the time it seems lively and engaging. The DVD presents solid picture and sound for a film of its vintage, and this edition adds a reasonably nice roster of extras. I definitely recommend the “Studio Classics” edition of Eve to all interested parties, and that includes folks who own the old DVD. The new one improves upon the prior release in every way and merits a repurchase, especially given the relatively low list price of the “Studio Classics” version.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5454 Stars Number of Votes: 66
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